May 18, 2009

No Top 25 this week--holding mode

The Soccer Source Top 25 was not going to change much this week, so instead of going through the labor-intensive process of putting a whole list together, we offer the following highlights from the world of top club soccer:

Congratulations to FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Inter Milan, all of whom clinched their domestic league titles over the weekend. They are joined by FC Porto, Dynamo Kiev, AZ Alkmaar and Olympiakos, who had previously clinched their countries' leagues.

Olympique Lyonnais will not repeat as French champs. This despite an impressive 3-1 victory at Olympique Marseille yesterday. Put that one down in the "too little, too late" column. It will be the first time since 2001 that l'OL are not crowned French champions. The end of an era.

Lyon's victory is nevertheless significant, as it puts Girondins Bordeaux in the driver's seat for Ligue Un glory. With a three point lead and two matchdays remaining, a victory Saturday against 11th-placed Monaco will in all likelihood give les Girondins their first French league title in a decade. But if Bordeaux blow it at home this weekend, and Marseille win at Nancy (which they should. Nancy sit 13th and have nothing left to play for, not even the threat of relegation) it sets up an intriguing final match day. Lyon play their last game at Caen, who are struggling against relegation (two points clear of the drop zone at time of this writing) while Marseille host seventh-placed Rennes. Bordeaux have the edge in goal difference--for now (plus 28 to Marseille's plus 27). So to paraphrase Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction: let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Perhaps even more interesting than the French race is the German one, where VfL Wolfsburg can all but taste their first-ever Bundesliga title. The "Wolves" will in all likelihood need just one point from their clash with UEFA Cup finalist Werder Bremen this weekend. Perhaps by then Werder will be UEFA Cup champs, which might lead to a bit of a (literal and figurative) hangover when the clubs meet Saturday. The other two clubs with a shot at the Bundesliga "Schale" (it means bowl and is used to refer to the Bundesliga silverware, which is literally a big plate. Don't know why they don't call it "Teller", the German word for plate. Maybe one of our German readers can explain) Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart, face each other in Munich this weekend. With Wolfsburg's goal difference seven better than Bayern's (and 14 better than Stuttgart's) that game will not only need a winner, but also a loss by Wolfsburg for it to have an impact on who takes the aforementioned silverware.

Finally, in Scotland, Glasgow Rangers are in the driver's seat for their first title since 2005. To accomplish this feat, Walter Smith's men just need to win at Dundee United Sunday. With a two point lead over their friendly rivals from Parkhead, a draw might suffice as well--assuming, that is, that Celtic don't win their final match against Hearts. With the better goal difference (barely), Gordon Strachan's club would leapfrog their rivals in that scenario.

As for the Top 25, we'll be back next week when these matters (with one possible exception; the French title) are settled.

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